digestibility (65 percent) relatively high, and its protein content (1.95.2 percent) low but nonetheless valuable. Ethiopian farmers rely on it to strengthen their oxen at the end of winter, a time when fresh grass is unavailable but the plowing season is coming on.12

In Ethiopia, tef straw is the preferred binding material for walls, bricks, and household containers made of clay.

NUTRITION

Tef seeds appear similar to wheat in food value; however, they are actually more nutritious. There are two reasons for this: (1) the seeds are so tiny that they have a greater proportion of bran and germ (the outer portions where nutrients are concentrated); and (2) because the seeds are so small, tef is almost always produced as a whole-grain flour.13

For a grain, tef is rich in energy (353-367 kcal per 100 g). Its fat content averages about 2.6 percent.

In most samples, the protein content is as good as, or better than, that of other cereals. It ranges from 8 to 15 percent, averaging 11 percent. The protein, as in most cereals, is limited by its lysine level. Otherwise, however, it has an excellent balance of essential amino acids.14 Indeed, two nutritionists, having surveyed all the common foods of Ethiopia, commented: "[W]e want to draw attention to the high values for methionine and cystine found in tef. . . . The protein from a mixture of tef and a pulse will give a near optimal amino acid mixture with regard to both lysine and to the sulfur-containing amino acids."15

The vitamin content seems to be about average for a cereal, but making injera involves a short fermentation process, and the yeasts generate additional vitamins. The value of the grain is thus enhanced.

The mineral content is also good (average ash content 3 percent). The iron and calcium contents (0.011-0.033 percent and 0.1-0.15 percent) are especially notable. In Ethiopia, an absence of anemia seems to correlate with the areas of tef consumption, presumably due to the grain's good iron content.

12  

Tef fodder is therefore a vital component of Ethiopia's whole farming system, a point often overlooked by those who consider only the grain. Information from G. Jones.

13  

Refined flour can be made, however. With appropriate screening it can be sifted away from the bran and the germ. Information from W. Carlson.

14  

In Ethiopia, it is said that a daily intake of one injera pancake supplies enough of these amino acids to sustain life without another protein source; two are sufficient to ensure good health.

15  

It is notable that Ethiopians commonly mix fenugreek (abish), lentils, peas (ater). or faba bean (bakela) with injera batter, a practice that satisfies this nutritional criterion.



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